Monday, July 17, 2017

"An author's pen must write of the acts of God"


First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:

     It's the birthday of fiction writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon (books by this author), who wrote under S.Y. Agnon, born in Galicia in what is now Ukraine (1888). He spoke Yiddish at home, and read Hebrew and German.
     When he was 20 years old, he moved to what is now Israel, and he started publishing stories. He moved back to Germany for a few years, where a prosperous Jewish businessman named Salman Schocken took Agnon under his wing and gave him a monthly stipend so that he could devote himself to writing full-time. Agnon's books include Hakhnasat Kalah (The Bridal Canopy, 1922), Oreach Nata Lalun (A Guest for the Night, 1939), and Shevuat Emunim (Two Tales, 1943). He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1966.
     At a big party for his 70th birthday attended by several hundred people, he gave a speech and said: "I did not recount great things and wonders about myself. Who more than I knows of my impoverishment? I say this not from false modesty, but from my own opinion - that an author who believes he has great things to tell about himself misappropriates his mission. The individual to whom God gave an author's pen must write of the acts of God and his wonders with human beings."


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And there is this personal postscript:

I had not heard of S. Y. Agnon prior to reading the article above, and now I hope to track down and read the cited books, but -- in the meantime -- I am fascinated by what Agnon said at his 70th birthday party. I've given some thought to Agnon's comment about an author's responsibility to "write of the acts of God and his wonders with human beings," and I would like to paraphrase Agnon by suggesting a label for such writers: Writers of Faith. 

Well, I have been trying to recall the names of Writers of Faith with whom I am most familiar. Certainly Flannery O'Connor is one such writer who comes to my mind. Gerard Manley Hopkins is another. I might even include William Blake. 

So, now, good friends, do me a favor. Ponder Agnon's words and my suggested label, and tell me about your favorite writers who could be called Writers of Faith.

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10 comments:

  1. Interesting question, as ever, Tim. I think there are all sorts of writers of faith out there, and have been for quite some time. There's Jessamyn West (The Friendly Persuasion) who writes from a Quaker perspective. Then there's Faye Kellerman (much more contemporary) who is an Orthodox Jew, as is one of her main characters. There are others, too, and I'll be interested in your thoughts as you explore this avenue.

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    1. Thank you, Margot. Those names would have never occurred to me. BTW, I have long admired the film version of TFP.

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  2. R.T.,

    I'm curious--why do you enjoy rubbing people the wrong way?

    "just to complicate matters in this blog, and enjoying doing so since simply raising the subject tends to rub a lot of people the wrong way,

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    1. Ah, c'mon, Fred, my tongue is in my cheek, attempting humor. That's one of the problems with blogging: tone and subtlety don't translate very well. I apologize for the t-I-c statement. I will edit it out.

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    2. Postscript: Fred, perhaps I would have been more accurate if I had acknowledged and regretted my history of sometimes rubbing people the wrong way with my postings here and comments elsewhere; in any case, I've "cleaned up" the posting by eliminating anything related to rubbing anyone in any way.

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    3. R.T.,

      chuckle. . . I hope I didn't rub you the wrong way with my question.

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  3. Replies
    1. I don't know enough
      about haiku to respond
      sensibly to you.

      Where's Fred? I bet he has some thoughts. In the meantime, I'll see what I can learn about haiku in whatever is left of this afternoon.

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    2. R.T.,

      The haiku I've read over the years are set firmly in this world, the physical world. I cannot remember any haiku that refer to god or gods, which doesn't mean there aren't any.

      I wouldn't be surprised to find that there are haiku written by contemporary Christian poets that do refer to the deity.

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